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As I clicked on the "Place Your Order" button, having once again spent more money on Amazon than I make in a week, I realized I didn't care. Because I am getting books. Deliciously bad books, the reviews say. If I end up destitute, selling potatoes roasted in a rusty barrel, it will not matter, because I will be the most obnoxiously well-read roasted potato vendor in Beijing, and all anyone wants out of life is a little originality.This was an Internet-driven downward spiral, wherein I started out looking at Listology.com , or whatever it's called, and found a list entitled "1001 Books You Should Read Before You Die," which was translated in my feeble mind as "1001 Books That You Have to Order Right Fucking Now, Because You Could Get Hit by a Bus Tomorrow Morning, And You'll Be Bored in the Hospital, So Go Get the Goddamn Debit Card, Kendra."

Among a Mongol horde of other things, I ordered Sexing the Cherry immediately after reading the review. Especially the part where it said, "But the novel's freakish characters and flights of surreal fancy are insufficient to redeem its overwrought artifice. The work is further limited by its stridently dogmatic feminism, which, contemptuously belittling all men as arrogantly stupid bullies who are vastly women's inferiors in maturity and moral fiber, vitiates its ostensible intent to transcend the narrowness of human perception."

Yes, please. Proceed to checkout.

Living in China makes you desperate for books. Like, two-seconds-after-you-realize-you-lost-your-wallet desperate. About three years ago, stuck in a 95 percent male-infested dormitory in the middle of a cornfield in Jilin Province, my only literary diversion for three months having been pictures of Chairman Mao in an agricultural calendar circa 1969, I finally bit the bullet and ordered Bust Guide to the New Girl Order, based solely on the strength of its screaming protest-placard of a title. I was not disappointed. I was so not disappointed that I was considering going down on the entirety of the international postal service. But after handing out various, poignantly highlighted pages as Spring Festival presents (oh, sweet, sweet revenge), I was totally out of rabid prose.

There's a couple of English-language bookstores around town, so just when you think you can't possibly sink any lower, you can sidle in there and buy romance novels and financial how-to books that you stuff into a brown paper bag while shooting furtive, guilty looks at the cashier. This invariably leads to one of two gradual adjustments in attitude: in-your-face belligerence about reading this stuff in public or buying academic treatises to serve as a sort of mortification-deflecting book jacket for all the smut you're guzzling.

You start thinking things like, "Is Gortavia going to bend Heraldus to her will with her grandmother's hypnotic topaz heirloom in the next chapter or do I have to wait another 40 pages for them to ravish each other?" Torture increases victims' pain tolerance, studies show.

Oh, what, you'd never touch that filth? Goody. You're in for great titles like, Thirty-Two Great Investment Options for the Aging Spa Owner , Recycle Your Recycled Recyclables! and Interviews from the Throat: China's Top Cough-Syrup Tycoons Tell It Like It Is . Knock yourself out. Before you can say "hypocrite," you will be hiding a Danielle Steel cocooned within White Papers of the Chinese Government and protecting it like it's a kitten with a broken leg. Two broken legs. Because the second you let that cute European dude at the taxi stand read the back cover, he's sprinting off down Jianguomen Outer Street waving it over his head and screaming, "It's in English! It's in Eeeengggliiiisssh! Buahahah!"

Anyway, I'd like to avoid making a huge advertisement about Amazon. But I can't. They're awesome. And until you've had a haggard old woman wrapped in a People's Army greatcoat deliver you a package of Irvine Welsh in the middle of Siberian winter, you're categorically unqualified to talk about it.

Now, listen closely, because you'll never, ever hear me say this again: sometimes I hate the Internet. I don't have a lot I get to brag about, so most of the time I have to make myself sound literary. And there I am, scrolling down this monstrous thing, ticking off the ones I've read, and I'm going, "Nope, nope, nope. I haven't even heard of most of these," and I'm wondering how uneducated that should make me feel. Only after I closed the window did it occur to me that whoever wrote that list is just some guy, and Michael Marshal Smith wasn't even on it, so who the hell does he think he is, anyway?

Some guy who guilted me into spending my month's savings on stuff I could have stolen at various taxi stands, that's who. Some guy, if your 5000 PhDs have yet to land you a job worthy of your skills, there's a pro-life fundraising department somewhere with your name on it. You bastard.

In other news, Kyle just told me what he wants for Christmas. So if any of you are sitting on a pink or purple (some combination thereof also acceptable) pony that's 20 centimeters at the shoulder, drop me a line. Oh, and it should talk, eat cigarette butts, and poop hallucinogenic gumdrops. Thanks.

http://barelytzu.diaryland.com

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